Margaret Thatcher

My father called Maggie Thatcher ‘that woman’, and I learnt from a very young age that my parents never liked her. Their objection was probably more classist than anything else; she cut subsidies to art, music and culture and ignored with their favorite institutions: Civil Service, local governments, Oxbridge — the dinosaurs from an era when Britain was a feudal state. She privatized everything including the family silver — railways, sugar, shipbuilders, iron, coal, steel, electricity, water supply, oil, gas, electricity, airlines, freight transport, telecommunications — angering the establishment which lamented the loss of esteemed British institutions. But they were bold, decisive and necessary moves. Nationalised monopolies were uncompetitive, extremely inefficient, and run by bureaucrats who were able to hide and manipulate the costs. In 1979, subsidies to nationalised industries accounted for 60% of GNP.

Despite huge GDP losses from privatizations, during Thatcher’s tenure, GDP per capita tripled and GDP doubled (only 23% in real terms however). Productivity doubled, manufacturing quadrupled. By the end of the decade, Britain had one of the highest GDP growth rates of any European nations, a dramatic turnaround for a country that survived on IMF loans in 1979. She reduced the national debt from 43% of GDP to 25% — the lowest since 1914. However, privatizations were a thankless job: unemployment jumped from closure of inefficient factories and coalmines, and remained high until the last three years of her rule. In 1984, she won the famous annual rebate from the EEU (rebate of 66%, the difference between Britain’s EU contributions and receipts), a legacy that remains in effect, until Blair reduced it.

Her approach to coalminers’ strike had been well-known, but less known was that the strike was caused because the government decided to shut down mere ten uneconomic mines. The annual cost to taxpayers by coalminers had reached £1 billion at this point. The ending of National Graphical Association (one of the most wasteful and hilarious trade unions ever conceived) and like created a huge expansion of print media as we know today.

Oxford refused her a honorary degree because of her deep cuts in education, but she ushered in the era of decentralization of education. Parents can now select schools without regard to location, and her reforms increased university education access (20,000 more first degrees earned every year). She began an initiative to put a desktop computer in every secondary school, and reduced the power of local authorities and politicians in schools. She attacked local governments, who like union leaders were on ego trips, and whose spendings were unregulated. She restricted their spending, and huge numbers of council houses were sold to their tenants, and home ownership grew to 67% from 55%. Although she is now being accused of making cuts to social security, under Thatcher it actually increased from 72 billion pounds to 85 billion pounds. Health and community services increased by 37%.

She made mistakes too, of course, with Westland, Chile, Rhodesia, South Africa and West Germany, but she kept Britain out of the Eurozone and on that afternoon when the teary-eyed prime minister left the Downing Street in disgrace, she left behind a richer and stronger Britain. The days of unburied dead and uncollected garbage were over. Britain was ready for a new era.

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0 thoughts on “Margaret Thatcher

  1. She was also responsible for the wholesale beating, torture, and mistreatment of political IRA prisoners. So, yay, right?

  2. The legacy of Thatcher still exists today, with vast swathes of the former industrial heartlands given over to second or third generation unemployed, poverty, crime, poor health. I don’t pity her, I pity those who believe in her.

    1. I pity you for blaming her. Look at the bigger picture.

      To put it simply:
      A country’s GDP (annual wealth) = Combined personal consumption (C) + Investment (I) + Government Spending (G) + (Net Exports – imports).
      GDP = standard of living under a monetary system (rich and poor)
      Government Debt = Government spending – tax revenue (+ surplus – amount required to borrow to sustain public spending commitments i.e. school milk)
      Tax revenue = percentage of combined personal consumption = dependant on net exports – imports which in the end pays wages.
      Less export revenue = less personal consumption = less tax revenue = less government spending (if money is borrowed to maintain spending commitments = higher deficit/debt)
      Higher deficit = higher government debt = value of government bonds/gilts drops = more money needs to be borrowed for the same value/cost of borrowing rises = inflation = interest rates rise = businesses struggle = catalyst of government debt = emergency loans from IMF = government spending must be cut to control the situation = living standards drop for people dependant on the state.
      British heavy industry pre 80s = depended on subsidization from the state –> 70’s strikes & low quality output compared to the far east = less export value = lower GDP = higher government debt = requirement to stop subsidising loss making industries or pound would collapse (which would finish the whole economy = requirement for fast investment to boost GDP = opening/deregulating the free market, privatization of utilities, encouragement of the rich to invest in the UK and traditional bankrupt (a fate hidden by bureaucrats) British industry was abandoned = initial GDP loss by eventually offset by the gains from investment.
      In other words the fate of the country’s economy was in reality out of the government’s hands as they had no cash to reinvest.
      Still blame Thatcher?

  3. Your history is mostly false and warped. The leadershipe for the great civil rights gains in the 50s and 60s came from the democrats. Truman of course intagrated the military in 1948 and the dixiecrats ran against him. But, probably to be fair the real impetus came from outside both political paraties. The blow back however, came from the republicans. Nixon devised the southern stragedy and was elected in 1968, a little more than 20 years ago. Reagan 1980 – 30 years ago.

    I was in high school in the early 60s and followed it all in the news. I remember who did what.

    1. “Since 1933, Republicans had a more positive record on civil rights in Congress than the Democrats. In the twenty-six major civil rights votes since 1933, a majority of Democrats opposed civil rights legislation in over 80 percent of the votes. By contrast, the Republican majority favored civil rights in over 96 percent of the votes.”

      Civil Rights Timeline 1964, The Dirksen Governmental Center

    2. “Most of us will live to see the day when American boys and girls will sit, side by side, at any school – public or private – with no respect paid to the color of skin. Segregation, discrimination and prejudice have no place in America.” – Vice President Richard Nixon, 1956

      “I did not lie awake at night worrying about the problems of Negroes.” – Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, 1961, Kennedy later authorized wiretapping the phones and bugging the hotel rooms of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

      1. “There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a Black and a White …. Or a rape.” – President Richard M. Nixon, Jan. 23, 1973, recorded conversation with an aide after the Supreme Court upheld a woman’s right to choose in Roe v. Wade.

        “Hello, Mr. Mayor” – President Ronald Reagan, June 18, 1981, greeting his new Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Samuel Pierce during a luncheon for the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Reagan mistook Pierce, who is black, for one of the mayors.

        Thank you, Che is dead, for reminding us that the reasonable, good-hearted progressive Republicans in national office who were actually interested in civil rights for all Americans basically stopped existing over 45 years ago.

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